The NFL is back. Everyone is happy, ecstatic even. I'm just not sure I am.
Of course, I'm pumped for the Patriots. Tom Brady is back. The offense is loaded. The defense seems a bit shaky, but I'm hopeful they can be more than adequate. Barring another catastrophic injury, they should be back in the playoffs at the least. Fans across the country (except Oakland) all have hopes for this season. Everyone is going to be in the playoffs. Fantasy leagues are starting up. Beer, football and Viagara commercials on Sundays. What's not to like?
As I don my "cranky old journalist" hat, I must admit I feel a touch of dread. NFL means lots of extra work. And I mean LOTS. Comes with the territory, and frankly, it's not all that bad. But it does mean Sundays are going to be long and stressful. As thrilling and suspenseful sitting at a desk for nine hours can possibly get in my business.
Anytime a new major sports season starts I get the same feeling. It's just how I am. Football is a tad different because one of my favorite things to do throughout the years was sit down and watch the Patriots. I can't do that anymore. The game is on a small TV across the room and there's usually a million things going on. No longer can I observe the small things about the games, like who's blocking whom, who blew the coverage, etc. I like my work, but not being able to really watch Pats games anymore is one of the things I miss the most.
Now, if they're the only game on (like this Monday night), it's much better. But throw in the usual amount of stress I feel watching a Pats game (as anyone who has ever watch a Pats game with me can attest) with work duties and you have one jittery fellow.
So that explains the less-than-euphoric feeling I have as the season begins.
Speaking of the Pats, I used to pick a no-name player who would breakout (watch out for Tully Banta-Cain this year), but since I can't watch preseason games that much anymore, that task has grown tougher. I liked Shawn Crable, but he's out for the year again. So I think Sebastian Volmer will play a big role this season and I think Adalius Thomas is due for a comeback season. I also expect Brandon Merriweather to make the leap to a borderline Pro Bowl player.
As for predictions, I obviously expect a good season. Of course I think they can win the Super Bowl, but I'm not the most objective observer. The defense will definitely have to improve the pass rush if they want to win a fourth ring. They were terrible getting off the field on third down last season and a big reason was that QBs has days to pick apart that average secondary.
I don't see the Steelers repeating. The Chargers and Colts will be there as always. Maybe some Hard Knocks luck will vault the Bengals. The Jags could bounce back, too. Let's say the Pats and Chargers meet again for the AFC title game - this time in San Diego. Pats win and face the Giants in a Super Bowl XLII rematch 40 minutes from my apartment in northern Miami. New England gets revenge for THE GAME THAT ZACH REFUSES TO TALK ABOUT and Randy Moss wins Super Bowl MVP.
Sound about right?